Every two months, we survey 600 mid-sized business leaders across the country to understand their expectations and priorities for the future.

We use this data to track changing market sentiment over time and explore topical issues and challenges facing mid-sized businesses in the UK. Here's what the latest April survey told us.

UK economic outlook

Optimism about the outlook of the UK economy has faltered slightly in April, falling from 75% to 73%. However, this is still +4 percentage points higher than the rolling average since the Tracker began in January 2021. Those who are pessimistic also remained steady, increasing just +1pp in April, compared to February.  

Optimism on the outlook of the UK economy over next 6 months

Revenue growth

After optimism around future revenue growth skyrocketing by +21 percentage points (pp) in February, April has seen a slight decline with this optimism, dropping -3pp. But overall, optimism levels remain high and +5pp above the rolling average. The level of respondents pessimistic about their growth, which had decreased significantly in February rose again by +4pp, but remains just below the rolling average.

Optimism on business revenue growth over next 6 months

Funding position

 With interest rates likely to have reached their peak, businesses’ confidence in their funding position has remained pretty steady following a jump of +22 percentage points in February, dropping just -3pp. The number of those pessimistic in their position has doubled however, after a drop in February following a steady incline since August last year. The percentage of those pessimistic about their funding position is now just above the rolling average at 10%.

Optimism on business funding position over next 6 months

Profit expectations

 As business optimism decreases slightly across the board, those expecting their profits to increase also fell by -10pp compared to February, dropping to 59%. This is still slightly higher than the rolling average (56%). There was also a slight increase in the number of respondents expecting their profits to decrease – rising from 20% in February to 22% in April.

Profit growth expectations over next 6 months

Schellion Horn, Economics Consulting Partner at Grant Thornton UK LLP

  • Schellion Horn, Economics Consulting Partner at Grant Thornton UK LLP

    "It’s clear that mid-sized businesses are feeling more positive than they have for some time. The indicators for business confidence in the outlook of the UK economy and for their own revenue growth and funding position all surpass the Tracker's rolling average for the last three years. This optimism follows a period of record lows in the latter half of 2023, signifying renewed confidence in the UK's economy. 

    “With inflation now reported at 2.3%, its lowest level for nearly three years, it is perhaps close enough to the Bank of England’s target of 2% that a June interest rate cut may be on the cards. This positive outlook sets the stage for continued business confidence as the country prepares to head to the polls, following an election being called for 4 July."

Business investment expectations

As confidence falters slightly across the market, this has fed into businesses’ investment expectations, which have seen little change across all areas monitored by the Tracker. The biggest changes were reductions in skills development, R&D and technology and an anticipated increase in plant, machinery and new buildings.

 

"The process of a General Election and the associated range of potential policy changes suggested can create uncertainty and directly affect business sentiment and confidence. We’ve seen from our Tracker that wherever there is a sudden, or unexpected, change in policy direction, mid-market confidence is correspondingly affected. But with UK debt levels high and recent warnings from the OECD for fiscal prudence in any election pledges, there may be less opportunity for the political parties to put forward differentiating, stand out economic policies, reducing the uncertainty created this time compared to previous elections.

"As parties start to lobby for votes in the run up to the July election, the policy areas mid-sized businesses (often regarded as the engine of the UK economy) most want to see the next government focus on are investment in skills and training, reducing regulation and red tape, and measures to support the transition to net zero."

Schellion Horn, Economics Consulting Partner at Grant Thornton UK LLP

Business growth expectations rebound, despite confirmed technical recession

New research from leading business and financial adviser Grant Thornton UK LLP finds that, while it’s been confirmed that the UK entered a technical recession at the end of last year, business revenue growth expectations have rebounded this month as inflation remains steady and interest rates were held for the fourth time in a row.